JACKSON TWP.  Soccer is a game of slim margins.

Games are decided by a single goal at times, goals come because shots are a centimeter too far for a goalkeeper to reach and being that close to victory only to fall short stings.

The Jackson Polar Bears made a run all the way to the Division I state semifinals, toppling the state’s top-ranked team along the way, but saw their impressive tournament trek come to a close in extra time in a 1-0 loss to Perrysburg.

With a 17-2-2 record, girls soccer became the latest team at the school to come tantalizingly close to delivering the first girls state athletic championship in Jackson history.

"Once again senior leadership was incredible. They’ve been a powerful class since their youth years, but we had a couple of postseason runs where we underachieved for us to go that far and them to lead was great," head coach Frank Gagliardi said.

The overtime loss at Mapfre Stadium may have ended the year, but the highlights that preceded it won’t go away any time soon. In the previous game, Jackson topped Hathaway Brown 2-1 in overtime, touching off a wild celebration for the regional championship.

In the aftermath of the Perrysburg loss, the Polar Bears had to gather themselves and try to process the fact that their year was over.

"There were both feelings going on throughput the team. They knew they don’t have anything to regret or hang their heads about, but we came so close and it was painful," Gagliardi said. "We got some good looks and to not get the result …I think the girls gathered themselves as well as they could have in that moment."

Getting to the state semifinals, winning league, district and regional titles are all sizable accomplishments, but according to Gagliardi, it wasn’t always clear from the start of the season that this team would be this good or go this far in the tournament.

"The coming together as a team didn’t take place until the middle of the season. We knew we had decent athletes and players with good skill sets, but what made the difference was that commitment to each other and they focused on the priority that each and every person had to unite," Gagliardi said. "The idea I used with the team was that any time someone got beat the other player was there to cover for them and that’s going rewarding for them in life because put others first is a valuable lesson."

The names of the heroes in the tournament run changed on an almost daily basis, whether it was Izzy Arnold, Brooke Parsons, Chloe Falconer or any of the litany of others who made a big play in a tight spot. Gagliardi noted that 10 different players scored or assisted on a game-winning goal during the postseason and with that many contributors, Jackson became a group greater than the sum of its parts.

The results included the only defeat and tie of the season for No. 1-ranked Walsh Jesuit, two wins over Hoover and a lot of memories that were etched into the minds of players and fans.

For now, the search for the first girls’ state title in school history goes on, but given the success of the tennis, golf, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams in recent years, it appears that the Polar Bears are closer than ever to hoisting that first trophy.

VOLLEYBALL, BOYS SOCCER SEASONS COME TO CLOSE

The boys soccer and volleyball teams made their own long tournament runs, with the boys soccer squad falling 3-1 to St. Ignatius in a regional semifinal and volleyball losing in four sets to Cleveland St. Joseph Academy.

Both teams had the distinction of winning league titles and district titles and both defeated Hoover to win their district crown. Volleyball remains a regular at the Division I state tournament, while boys soccer returned to the regional level after a tough season and relied heavily on younger players to get there. With boys cross country also getting to the state meet and Brock Hawkins representing the boys golf team at the state tournament, it was a hugely successful fall for the school and the football team also reached the playoffs for the second straight season.

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